Ullswater Suncatcher

One of my favourite longer distance walks the The Ullswater Way, which has just celebrated it’s 1st anniversary of it’s launch in 2016. It was formalised to help boost Ullswatertourism and activity in the Ullswater valley after horrific flooding from Storm Desmond wreaked havoc in December 2015. In that first year, it has truly become one of the great lake district walks, partly because of the natural range and beauty of Ullswater, but also because of how well the walk has been completed, promoted, signposted and made accessible to many more walkers by being broken down into sections that tie in with the Ullswater Steamers piers,

Ullswater waythe two main towns and parking facilities. This helps people, who maybe cannot complete the full 20+ mile circular in one go, to tackle in in two or three visits. It’s been done beautifully, and looks like it has begun to repay the investment already judging by it’s popularity. I’ve tackled it twice already in the first year, doing both the lower-level walk, and the higher add-on options in a clockwise direction. Both walks have been very enjoyable indeed, with an full array of all the Lake District has to offer in one walk – fauna and flora galore, forest trails,lakeside beaches, hills, meadows and great views all over, not to mention a few cafes and ice-cream pit stops! It’s tremendous, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ll be doing it time and time again for sure. 

I’m always on the lookout for rubbish when walking, being a pet-hate of mine, and I clear what I can when I come across it, particularly glass bottles which are veryBecks hazardous to the wildlife and walkers alike. On my second time round The Ullswater Way, I came across a discarded Becks beer bottle in plain sight off one of the footpaths between Glenridding and Glencoyne. It had been lying for some time judging by the dirt and label degradation, so I bagged it up, with the intention of upcycling it into something. Recovering discarded glass bottles from the Lake District as I do my walks has become a bit of a MO for me now, always going prepared with a couple of carrier bags in my rucksack. I’ve not come across too many thankfully, but the count is certainly increasing. I’m trying to build up a range of upcycled items from bottles I’ve recovered from The Lake District, some really simple, and some a bit more elaborate, with the intention of hopefully using them to raise some funds for mountain rescue teams in the future. I’m thinking the idea will be to use the bottle’s original location to designate any funds raised to the MR team in that area. I do get about a bit, so hopefully it would suncatcherspread things around, and I do log down and photograph any finds I come across to show where it was found.

I’ve made a more elaborate bordered suncatcher from a Troutbeck bottle find, so I thought for this one, I’ll just do a simple five piece suncatcher. I might need some simpler items to get people interested in making a MR donation for them. The bottle was green, and going through my boxes of glass, I picked out a strong amber old cathedral glass to contrast significantly with the green bottle end. The bottle end cut easily, and I cut and then shaped the amber glass using my grinder. suncatcherAfter foiling, soldering and cleaning, I used black patina, and polished it up with black grate polish. It’s 100mm square, to avoid things getting too heavy and a hanger. Here’s the end result. Another pleasing little result from stumbling across other peoples rubbish in the beautiful Lake District.

Beer bottle desk tidy

There are a good number of attractive real ale type of bottles on the market, many with imaginative label designs that appeal to the eye, but most are made of a pretty poor quality paper label, which is a shame as they could be so good if they were more durable. penpotI got a whole load of beer bottles given, but only one had a durable, high gloss vinyl type of finish that would be good to survive the water-based breaking process and subsequent use. The labels are usually large, so it limits the cut line to the top shoulder, but this makes for a deep pot with a number of uses. One thing I’ve found lately is the number of brewers who are switching from inkjet ‘best before’ dates to engraved ones. The later remain obtrusive on the bottle , whereas the ink-jet ones will come clean off with the help of a sharp blade, leaving a much cleaner look for a bottle cutter’s end use! This one had the engraved date right on the same shoulder, but it didn’t cause any difficulty in the cutting and cleaning up of the edge. The end result of this Dent Brewery Aviator bottle is perfect, and will be used as a desk pen pot. Very simple, easy to do and much nicer looking and greener than a plastic piece of desk clutter from a stationery shop. One for a real ale fan maybe.

Catching up on cutting

I’ve not done much in the way of bottle cutting in the last month or so as I have been busy working on a few copper foil items and also a lead came design in the class I’ve been attending. The nearest I’ve got was doing a single cut on a wine bottle to make a hurricane to send to a friend in Norway , leaving a bottom end which I bonded to a circular piece of 3mm clear again in preparation for a centrepiece for another copper-foil hanger like the last two posts. All good practise and fun though. various

So it was time for a bit of a catch up on the bottles. I’d been given a green Champagne bottle on Thursday, so I cut that to make another vase. The weight of these strong and thick bottles is ideal for this use. I also cut a street salvaged Smirnoff vodka bottle for use as a vase, though the paper labels were unsaveable having been exposed for a long time to the elements.It’s still distinctive though. A large J P Chenet clear wine bottle was cut to make a pot pourri dish (front right in photo), which  will be filled later. Finally, I rescued a 1.5 litre plonk bottle from the flowerbeds on the walk home from work yesterday, and cut it low to make a useful finger dish (front left in photo) , ideal for nibbles or similar use. A perfect example of a kerb to the table reworking. It’s perfect, and looks good in the flesh. Good to be back at it in earnest again using discarded materials. Next plan is looking towards christmas, with a whisky bottle I’ve had since January, which I plan to decorate and insert christmas lights.

Vinegar bottle

Lately, I’m just continuing to explore everyday bottles and styles to see which are practical to cut down and make use of, further continuing the ethos of using a free source of glass, and keeping things as ‘green’ as possible by second use.

Vinegar bottleAnother piece of glassware that someone donated to try was a Sarson’s Vinegar bottle, which has a long established teardrop shape. The flat bottom and long tapered neck make this bottle a perfect candidate for a cut high up the neck to form a nice shape for a small cut flower vase.

The label was removed, and I used the G2 cutter to score the neckline. The curved shape of the bottle prohibits using the Ephrem’s horizontal cutter, and this is where the G2 comes into it’s own. I used a carefully directed pour of hot water onto the score, rotating it several times over the sink to get some temperature into the glass. I then doused  it under a cold running tap, rotating the bottle to get a complete and visible break in the score line. This is my preferred and most successful method of cutting bottles. Another pour of hot water on the score then separates the two parts very cleanly. Vinegar bottle vase

With the high cut line, the opening is quite small, so very careful edging with the diamond pads is required to avoid and unsightly chips or scratches. A clean cut is a bonus here, leaving little work to do, so the end result, seen here to the right, was very satisfactory. Another  example of everyday  packaging on a simple low-cost item that can be used for something else before it hits the recycling bin.

Jig extension for cutter

The Ephrem’s cutter is a great piece of kit. By far the best of the two types I’ve used so far (the Ephrem’s and the Armour). Using it’s adjustable end plate and rear wheel positions, you can cut a good range of bottle sizes and achieve various positions of cuts. One project I’m aiming to try out is a hanging bottle tealight lamp, suitable for use in a garden or yard. For those, the bottom of a bottle is cut off, finished, and then the bottle is slid over a coiled wire hanger through the neck, to create a wind sheltering, attractive candle surround, hopefully with some nice bottle colours.

The only way I’d been able to work this cutting length on the Ephrem’s was to remove the end stop, and place the cutter on the kitchen worktop up near to the solid flat face of the fridge-freezer, and use that as an end-stop for the neck end. It was awkward to find the true perpendicular from the fridge for the best cut, and my rolling technique was hampered on one side by the fridge. It also wasn’t going to be the smartest move to risk marking the fridge coating and get a deserved ear-bashing!

Feeling surprisingly resourceful and useful today, I decided to set myself a little ‘scrap-yard challenge’ , to quickly solve this and knock a few of these bottle hangers out in about an hour using just the rough old hand tools and bits of scrap products in the shed. I had the design in mind – a longer base with two firm rails down each side to hold the cutter, which would retain the cutter and allow it to move up and down as required up against a permanent end stop. The Ephrem’s is not wide, so I didn’t need a wide plank for a base – a floorboard offcut  I had was just about right (about 5mm wider would have been ultra-neat), and I cut it to suit a full size wine bottle length, and had plenty left to form the end-stop.

Homemade cutter jigA hardwood quadrant bead remnant from my front door installation last year was ideal to form the two side rails. I also had a couple of 4-holed right angle brackets , which I had put on top of the screw cabinet about 10 years ago thinking “I’ll use them one day” and here that day was! I formed the 90 degree end stop using these brackets, and some salvaged short screws from the old screw tub. The side rails were tacked onto the plank, and that was the job complete – rough as you like – in only about twenty minutes.The only ‘new’ product was half a dozen tacks to nail the side rails on. Unfortunately nails don’t salvage straight, unlike removed screws!

bottomless bottlesThen came the moment of truth – trying it out. The brackets kept the end-stop true and strong, and the rails do their job though the Ephrem’s has non-slip rubber feet (which is the only thing I yet need to find for the jig bottom) so it doesn’t move about much anyway. Three full size wine bottles of different designs were attempted, and gave three good results, which cut cleanly and true. These will be edge-finished tomorrow ready to be used with some wire hangers as garden tealight lamps.

All in all a very cheap and quick little project, which I know will prove to be very useful indeed, and give results that will be popular with friends and family who have the garden space to have BBQs and summer evening outdoor entertaining. It’s almost a complete cycle, as it’s some of those evenings that are providing the empty bottles to make these bottomless bottles.

Street salvage

I’ve been finding beer bottles particularly useful and good to work with so far, but being teatotal for a few years now, sourcing them was always going to be slightly more problematic than it could have been a while back. People put a few out in their green recycling boxes, but as it’s a shared system with paper round here, it’s not a good idea to be poking about in other peoples bins – leave that to the ID thieves!  A few donations have come in , but a chance discovery when walking to work made the penny drop on a potentially very good source that I hadn’t even thought of – the streets, gutters and flora around them.

There’s plenty of people who just throw their bottles down on the street, toss them into bushes, or leave them half-drunk on someones gatepost. I’ve found well over a dozen already just on the ten minute walk to and from work in just a few weeks. It’s surprising how resilient the bottles are to being tossed down and kicked about on tarmac, with only the odd tiny little scuff found on a few. Most have cleaned up beautifully, though there has been the odd slug to deal with inside a couple of them!

Reusing bottles that will just end up smashed in a bottle bank has been fun so far, but I must admit I really like the idea of taking an abandoned bottle that some careless drinker has discarded on the street, and still managing to make it into something very presentable. That’s got to be an ultimate form of recycling – saving discarded glass bottles from being smashed and stood on, run over by car tyres, thrown through someones window or just being old fashioned litter, and giving them a new use. A win-win situation for everyone and the environment. Any parts that are not reused or I break are returned to recycling banks, so all street salvage I collect avoids landfill, which might not always be the case if street cleaners pick them up. I’m getting quite eagle-eyed in spotting the glint of a green bottle in bushes even when it’s dark.

Just for personal interest, I’m running a tally of the number of bottles that have been rescued and reused from the streets as litter at the bottom of the left sidebar on this blog.